Anthropology of Food

Being necessary to our basic biological survival, food is a human universal. Indeed, the paired technological revolutions of fire and cooking are central features of a common human experience reaching deep into our species’ evolutionary past. But food is much more than just an instrumental caloric requirement. In both modern and historic times, when it comes to the manner of its acquisition/production, preparation, and consumption food is among the most highly differentiated and symbolically laden of all socio-cultural domains. Scholars have long noted that in processes of assimilation, negotiation, and exchange characteristic of the colonial forces that have shaped our contemporary world, food traditions are the most persistent and resistant to change. Food is sacred and profane, food nourishes and malnourishes, food comforts and disgusts, food is shared and withheld, food can foster peace and it can kindle conflict. This class will examine this most complex and multifaceted of human necessities from an anthropological perspective that accounts for a range of possibilities along the continuum from local to global.

Expedition Planning and Management

Expedition Planning and Management will introduce students to knowledge, skills, and risk assessment necessary for effective planning and management of short and extended wilderness expeditions. Course topics include goal setting and researching your own expedition, staff training, health considerations, budgeting and finance, logistics and support, transportation, lodging, energy balance and menu planning, equipment, leadership, expedition behavior, communication, safety, and risk management.

Environmental Justice Beyond Borders

As environmental stewards, it is critical that we cultivate a deeper understanding of global environmental issues, while considering the social implications of the strategies used to address these issues. Communities around the world are faced with environmental issues such as an influx of pollutants, loss of habitat and biodiversity, increasing health issues and changing climates. Strategies to address these issues may be effective but might lead to environmental injustices.

This 400 level course provides a forum for students to culminate their Sterling classroom and field experiences by exploring global issues through both social and ecological lens. As humans attempt to address global environmental issues, are we cognizant of environmental justice implications? Can we protect biodiversity, restore ecosystems, and/or develop sustainable communities without impacts to others?

As a seminar, discussion is pivotal to this course and will be facilitated by both the instructor, as well as students. To culminate the semester, students will pursue individual research projects which they will present to the class. We will use a variety of resources as we explore global environmental issues and environmental justice (historic and contemporary maps, activist art, academic articles, guest speakers, and field trips).

Women in United States History

This course will examine the social, political, economic and cultural aspects of women’s lives in the United States. The main objective of this course is to introduce students to the major issues, themes and developments in women’s history. Thus, I am less interested in students learning names and dates, and more interested in students understanding how women’s experiences changed and how women served as agents of change. To achieve this, I have structured the course with key questions in mind. How did women claim public space? How did various individuals, groups and institutions create, build and employ power? What changes in American society spurred or allowed women to claim space? More specifically, what strategies did women use to manipulate their environment and transform their activism to achieve and justify their needs and the needs of their community? I encourage students to keep these questions in mind when listening to lectures, reading the texts and completing assignments. These questions serve as a guide in understanding and tracing women’s experiences.

Community Food Action

This course will investigate the intersection of food justice and a local food system in part by involving students in successful community initiatives to bring local food and food awareness to all people in the Greater Craftsbury community. Hands-on direct food action such as preparing community dinners, analyzing recipes, designing food education programs and explorations of various food aid organizations in the Greater Craftsbury area will be the base for this course. We will address hunger issues in Vermont and the impact of food insecurity as we support, examine and critique the network of players already providing food support programs. This will be an action course, students will be involved in multifaceted solutions to food justice in our local area including programs such as Farm to School, The Center for an Agriculture Economy, Hardwick Area Food Shelf, Salvation Farms, The Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, and local initiatives.

Expedition II

This course explores on how people work in groups when facing challenging or unfamiliar situations. Personal development focuses on self-confidence, trusting teammates, and communication. Leadership and group problems solving exercises accompany the technical skill training needed for a 4-day winter backpacking trip in Northern Vermont. Off-trail navigation and a low-tech camping system demand teamwork, thoughtful action, and engagement with the natural world. Wood fires are used for cooking, purifying water, drying clothes, and staying warm. Recognition and prevention of cold injuries as well as possible treatment are important leadership and personal responsibilities. Self-awareness of how you act in stressful situations is a focus of reflective writing assignments.

Homework includes reading, gathering the required gear, and practicing skills (including a practice overnight camp-out). Graded categories also include preparedness for weekly classes and an Expedition skills assessment.

Takes place in the second half of the Fall semester and the 6 days after the Exam period.

Applications of Environmental Philosophy (ST)

Applications of Environmental Philosophy is a senior-level collaborative seminar built on a foundation of philosophical inquiry and devoted largely to exploring real-world creative applications of philosophy’s sometimes ethereal concepts.. This course draws on these threads of contemporary century environmental thinking to propose a new approach to engaging in environmental discourse through a performative, affective eco-practice.

Students in Applications will build a foundational understanding of Affect Theory, Performativity, Phenomenology, and Embodiment in order to critique a diversity of both student and faculty-derived case studies. The basis for this exploration is to give students the space, tools, and inspiration to build creative ArtScience-based solutions to human/ecological challenges by drawing on resources from a wide array of sources.

Applications is divided into three distinct phases. First, in 3-weeks of lecture/discussion, the class provides framing necessary to scaffold group and independent engagements. Second, in 3-weeks of collaboratively designed case studies, the class will look at examples of material ArtScience and transdisciplinary makers. This section will include at least one extended field trip (to the MIT MediaLab). Third, the final 4 weeks will be devoted to group and independent projects that address key issues raised throughout the first 6 weeks of the course. We will also have the opportunity to propose a collaborative article to the Leonardo Journal through its Pioneers and Pathbreakers / Narratives in Dark Culture project.

A Reverence for Wood: Studio Woodworking

This advanced studio woodworking course provides students the opportunity to research, design and build a project of their own choosing. Projects must include design and technical elements that build upon and challenge their existing woodworking knowledge, and provide opportunity to engage with new operations and techniques. Students will be responsible for submitting a project proposal complete with technical drawings covering all major elements of design and construction, a procedural outline for completing the project, and a list of questions and techniques that will challenge them throughout the build. Once proposals have been submitted, we will work together to develop a procedure that will safely and efficiently take them from the lumber yard to a finished project. As students work through new techniques and methods of work within their project, each will be asked to choose a problem of particular interest, research and develop a repeatable technique, and present their findings to the class in a short teaching demonstration. The class will culminate in a final critique in which students will present their completed project to the class and engage in a dialogue about the successes, failures, and challenges of both the process and the piece.

Soil, Plants, Microbes II

Through this course the students will acquire a deep understanding and appreciation for the myriad of interactions between plants and microbes in a variety of habitats, with a focus on the soil environment. Students will be introduced to how plants and microbes respond and adapt to their environment, both immediately and in the long-term with an emphasis on stress response. The role of soils as a way to create resilience and minimize stress in ecosystems will also be explored. This class will provide students with hands-on field and laboratory techniques for use in the study of soils, microbial life and plant health. Students will engage in writing their own research proposal using primary literature to explore novel ideas.

Soil, Plants, Microbes I

This course gives students an introduction to the biology and chemistry needed to understand how complex interactions between soil, plants and microbes build the foundation for terrestrial life. The classes focuses primarily on the evolutionary connection between plants and microbes through their diversity in metabolism, the structure and function of cells and tissue, and the transmission of genetic information. The topics are taught through the lense of the soil habitat interactions with a focus on photosynthesis, water and nutrient uptake and symbiotic relationships such as bacterial nitrogen fixation and mycorrhizal relationships. The lab component emphasizes the use of the scientific method, experimental design, reading and writing of scientific literature, lab safety and use of basic scientific equipment.

Native Farming and Food Traditions

While credit for the origins of agriculture is commonly associated with the Fertile Crescent, the scale of coincident agricultural achievement in the Americas is truly astounding. Many cuisines around the world, now taken largely for granted, would not exist were it not for the agro-biodiversity of Native American domesticates cultivated before European contact. Maize, domesticated in central Mexico some 8,000 years ago, is the world’s most widely cultivated crop, and central to the diets of people around the world. Imagine Ireland without potatoes, southern Italian food without tomatoes, or the spicy cuisines of Korea, Thailand, or Vietnam without chile peppers. All of these crops were first domesticated in the Americas, and traveled around the world in a process of diffusion known as the Columbian Exchange. Just as Native American plant foods revolutionized food and cooking the world over, in seeking alternatives to the industrial food production system, scholars and activists are looking to Native American farming traditions for answers. While these same traditions are increasingly threatened, movements to decolonize the food system are underway. This class will explore the range of food and farming traditions of the Americas, from prehistory to the present, and examine the implications for contemporary concerns about public and environmental health, food sovereignty and security.

Introduction to Agroecology

This course examines ecological foundations of agricultural management principles and practice, in order to foster an understanding of the management and design of agroecosystems. Using a whole-system, multi-disciplinary, and practical approach, students will explore Sterling’s agricultural systems, gaining insight into management and design principles that improve efficiency, diversity, self-sufficiency, self-regulation, and resilience (Magdoff, 2007). Students will gain a broad overview of agroecological history and theory that informs practical application on the Sterling farm. We will focus on specific ecological concepts applied to agricultural systems, such as: disturbance; microclimate development & use; ecotones; the impacts of herbivory, animal, and human impact on succession; use of biomimicry and synergisms in design; carbon, water, and nutrient cycling; biological organisms, cycles, and impacts; and biodiversity at multiple scales.